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 >  Home   >   Living in Germany
German Business Etiquette in English

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Living in Germany

16 tips to help you get settled quickly

Are you planning your very first trip to Germany where you intend to live and work? We have the answers to 16 basic questions that will give you some initial information you will need to make your move easier.

The typical German - a Bavarian?

1. Entry into Germany

Entering Germany from a non-Schengen country can sometimes be a tedious hurdle for non-EU citizens. This is one reason why we are often asked to assist with immigration formalities when an individual wants to attend language courses in Germany. If you want to enter an EU country as an individual traveler, you should take note of the following 3 bits of information that can save you from senseless detours and wasted time and money:

  1. Before your travels, contact the German embassy in your country. They can provide you with information on the entry process and the necessary papers – don’t forget: the embassy decides whether or not you can enter Germany.
  2. A recommendation letter or proof of enrollment in a language course in Germany can help, but not if you do not meet the general entry requirements. As mentioned above, you can learn about these at the German embassy in your country. The German embassy will decide on your case according to the entry criteria for individuals from your country.
  3. The only time that entry decisions might not depend on the German embassy in your home country, is in the case that you enter through an accredited travel agent or at the invitation of a company. In these situations, there may be different entry procedures. For more information, see: www.auswaertiges-amt.de. If your goal is to study in Germany, you should not be entering Germany with a tourist visa, but with a student visa. Keep in mind that you often cannot convert your tourist visa into a student visa once in Germany, and that this change in status would require you to return to your home country’s German embassy.

2. Arrival Travelers

arriving at one of the major hubs of Frankfurt, Munich or Cologne, Germany, will find good infrastructure at these airports that will allow them to quickly travel to their final destinations. Metro or long-distance trains often stop directly at the airport, and these are usually the most convenient and fastest ways to travel. Those who choose to take a taxi or rental car into city centers must plan on longer travel times.
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3. Security

Personal security, of yourself and your belongings, is not really a problem in Germany. For example, public parks and parking lots are not generally guarded, cars are parked on the streets, and there are no special residential zones or gated communities. Of course, as you’ll find everywhere, there are neighborhoods and situations that pose a higher risk. For example, you should not linger after midnight in the dark corners of train stations in Germany’s larger cities.

4. Language

German belongs to the Indo-Germanic languages, and you will notice that many English words are quite similar to their German equivalents. If a foreigner tries to speak German, this will almost always be positively regarded by the Germans. However, this does not mean that a German will continue the conversation in German. Many Germans believe that they should use their own foreign language skills to assist foreigners, and usually change to English as a gesture of courtesy and respect. Even if you can accomplish a lot with English in large German firms and in simple conversations on the street, in hotels or while traveling, it quickly becomes apparent that learning the German language is fundamentally important to really participating in everyday life in Germany and truly “understanding” the Germans. In fact, important directions and signs are often only written in German. If you want to learn German, you can find recommended courses at Learn-German-via-Skype.com - German Courses.

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5. Transportation

Germany has one of the densest networks of roads, highways and rail links. Traveling by train and bus is comfortable, fast and secure. Though normal long-distance train tickets are rather costly, those who make travel plans in advance, inform themselves of various travel options, and make reservations early, can save quite a bit of money on train travel. You can find more information at www.bahn.de. For those who prefer to travel by car, lots of helpful information is available from the German Automobile Club (www.ADAC.de). It is also worthwhile to search the Internet with the following keywords “Autovermietungen (car rental companies)” and “autobahnnetz (highway network)”, “staumeldungen (traffic reports)”, “mobilität (mobility)”, “reiseplanung (travel planning)”, “strassenverkehr (traffic)”, “Reisen in Deutschland (travel in Germany)” and on sites such as Staumelder.com, < www.verkehrsinfo.de , and www.verkehrsinformation.de.

6. Climate

Germany enjoys a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. In winter and during the transitional periods of spring and autumn, a warm sweater, a warm jacket and weather-proof shoes should always be in your suitcase. A rain jacket and an umbrella are also good to have with you in every season.

7. Food

As in other countries, Germany’s larger supermarkets offer a selection of food from Germany as well as from many other countries. Specialty shops with Turkish, Asian, Russian, French, Italian, Spanish and Middle Eastern delicacies are often easy to find - and are not only common in Germany’s big cities. Survival Foods

8. Hotels

Apart from the usual international hotel chains that can be found in Germany – including the Hilton, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, and Best Western – to name but a few – it is also recommended that you take a look at local accommodation offers. These will usually include family-run hotels or guesthouses that offer overnight accommodations in addition to their restaurants.

Even if you are not likely to find more than 3 star ratings at these establishments, such hotels usually have a more personal atmosphere, are less expensive, and are simply the perfect complement to getting to know a German city. If you're looking to get a quick idea for how much hotels are in a specific city, you can look up Berlin or Munich or other comparison sites.

9. Restaurants

The Germans love international cuisine. This makes it easy to find Italian, Turkish, Greek and Chinese restaurants even in smaller German towns. It is worth it, however, to also take note of the local cuisine. Some restaurants offer delicacies that you should be sure not to miss. For example, in northern Germany, you are likely to find fresh fish dishes of herring or plaice; in Bavaria, dishes like pork knuckles are typical; and in western Germany, “sauerbraten” is a favorite type of marinated beef. Typical restaurants with local specialties often have names that include the words “Gasthof” or “Gasthaus”, and it is not uncommon for them to be named after animals. Some common examples include: the “Goldener Bär“ (Golden Bear), “Roter Hahn” (red rooster), “Wilder Stier” (wild bull), “Zum Storch” (stork), and “Schwarzer Adler” (black eagle). When choosing your order, it helps to first take a look at the so-called “Tageskarte” (Daily Specials) or the extra page included in the menu entitled “Heute empfehlen wir” (Today we recommend…). This contains a list of the recommended dishes, which are being offered in addition to the standard menu on that particular day. These are often dishes that are only available seasonally and are therefore freshly prepared. In addition, they are usually a particularly good value for the money.

Recommendations for restaurants and shops with German food worldwide could be find at Leibspeise.wordpress.com/. Leibspeise is a private project of two German travelers.

10. Tipping

A tip is always given in restaurants and for small services in hotels, at full-service gas stations, and in taxis. Tip amounts are usually based on a minimum of 5% to a maximum of 10% of the total bill. If you were well served in a restaurant and are satisfied with the meal, it is considered very rude not to give a tip. This would also be embarrassing for the other guests at the table.

11. Telecommunications

Anyone who intends to spend a few weeks or more in Germany, is best of buying prepaid phones in the next telephone shop that you encounter. Whether you choose T-Mobile, E-Plus, Base, Vodafone, O2 Germany or Kabeldeutschland, is more a matter of taste, because their rates are similar. Cheaper pre-paid rates are now available in supermarkets such as Aldi, Lidl, Plus and Norma. Within your own four walls, a fixed line provider is recommended who can offer land line telephone service, mobile telephone service, Internet service, and possibly even cable TV as a package deal. Rates and technology continue to change so rapidly, however, so it is necessary to seek several offers from different service providers once you have arrived and are settled into an apartment.

12. Shopping

Traditionally, the Germans purchased daily necessities in stores that were located around the central marketplace of their towns. Over time, however, these areas have increasingly become pedestrian zones, and families have begun to shop in industrial parks on the outskirts of towns where they can buy goods in bulk and pack them into closely parked cars. For this reason, you will find most big supermarkets, shoe stores, discount retailers, electrical and hardware stores right outside of most German towns. As a consequence, retailers in town centers are struggling to survive while they also have to make room for many souvenir shops, mobile shops and boutiques. This trend, which began relatively late in Germany in comparison to other countries, has resulted in city grocers having a rather limited selection – in fact, you may have to search a while before finding a grocery store in a town center. Nevertheless, the pedestrian areas are generally very attractive shopping areas that are interspersed with nice cafes and restaurants. A modern example of this is the Friedrichstrasse in Berlin. Other famous shopping streets in Germany are the Kaufingerstrasse in Munich, the Zeil in Frankfurt, the Mönckebergstrasse in Hamburg and the Königstrasse ( "Kö") in Dusseldorf and Stuttgart.

On www.kreditkartenvergleichen.com you will get a free e-book regarding "comparing credit cards" (explantions in German only).

13. Leisure, sports, and cultural events

Open the local events section of any German newspaper, and you will be amazed by the variety of festivals, concerts, sporting events, exhibitions and other leisure activities that you can attend – and not just on weekends. There really is something for everyone. Whether you want to be active yourself or to just be entertained: the newspaper is a good source of choices for making spontaneous decisions. However, if you would like to make plans further in advance, look for a city magazine, which will usually be available with up-to-date information every month or 14 days.

Here are the online versions of program guides that can be found in some of Germany’s cities:

Gambling in Germany
Gambling in Germany Gambling is just about as old as mankind. Even back during the age of the ancient Romans, various dice games were quite popular. In Germany, it seems as though one out of every two citizens is engaging in some form of lottery; that's about half the population.
There are several different forms of gambling that German citizens enjoy, probably the most popular being the various forms of lotteries regular and television lotteries.

14. Social life

German is a country of club members. Hardly any German is not associated with a club or organization that reflects his or her interests and recreational pursuits. People join clubs if they enjoy hiking, stamp collecting, going to the theater, playing tennis or even planting a vegetable garden. So, if you want to make quick and lasting contacts in Germany, and you like socializing, contact your local town hall to find out more about local clubs and community education centers, which are usually well established in Germany’s larger towns and cities: www.vhs.de.
You can also search for information about clubs near you on several Internet sites:

15. To rent or to buy?

In Germany, it is very common for individuals and families to rent an apartment rather than buy. As a result, the supply of rental properties is very high in comparison to other countries. This trend is also due to the fact that rental costs are often less than the monthly costs associated with financing the purchase of a comparable property. Housing offers from private companies, brokers, as well as estate agents and property managers, are customarily found in the Saturday editions of local newspapers. In addition, well-established Internet sites such as www.propertygate.com, www.immobilienscout24.de, www.immowelt.de, www.engelvoelkers.de, www.remax.de, and www.planet-home.de can also be helpful. For potential buyers who are less-knowledgeable of an area, it is advisable to turn to the real estate services of an established local agent. Though they usually require a commission of up to 3.25% of the rental or purchase price of the property, their advice will be worth it if you want to avoid processing errors, poorly written contracts, and get into your dream home as quickly as possible.

16. Expatriate communities

While those living far from home used to meet each other at a local “Stammtisch” (a table reserved for certain individuals at a local bar), it is more popular today to meet in virtual communities that allow expatriates to form contacts with other expatriates. In large German cities, which often have a foreign population of more than 25%, it is easy to find and join groups of people from your own country. The following virtual community platforms are recommended for doing just that:

For more tips and information on how to successfully get started in Germany, take a look at our book: "More Than Manners: Business Etiquette in Germany".


You will find 35 other interesting articles in our book.
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More than Manners
This learning software with extensive text excerpts from the successful business etiquette book.


How to be German

Breakfast lavishly, pre-book all your holidays years in advance, dress sensibly and obey the red man! How to be German presents all the little absurdities that make living in Germany such a pleasure. It's required reading for all Ausländer and for Germans who sometimes have the feeling they don't understand their own country.
We learn why the Germans speak so freely about sex, why they are so obsessed with Spiegel Online and why they all dream of being naked in a lake of Apfelsaftschorle. At the end, the only thing left to say to Adam Fletcher's love letter to Germany is "Alles klar!"

How to be German

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Keywords: German stereotypes, sucessful with german clients, german business protocol , german business practices versus american , german business practices , german business etiquette and manners , german business culture characteristics , german business culture , german business correspondence etiquette , business etiquette in Germany , business communication germany etiquette





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Content: Gretchen Schaupp & Joachim Graff, E-mail: info@german-business-etiquette.com
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